The ‘80s in the world of sports was an interesting and dramatic time. The decade kicked off with an Olympics that had the lowest attendance of any competition since 1956! Held in Moscow, 66 countries boycotted the games, including the USA. Meanwhile, the focus intensified back home on the NFL football field and some dramatic achievements that led the San Francisco 49ers into an unprecedented winning streak of five Super Bowl championships between 1981 and 1995. Let's take a quick glimpse at how the 49ers became the football team of the '80s...
The Gold Rush
If you’ve always wondered hoe the 49ers were named, it’s actually pretty simple. The name is an allusion to the prospectors who explored Northern California during the gold rush of 1849. The San Francisco team was created in 1946, nine months after the end of WW2, and joined the NFL a few years later. The early years saw various ups and downs, but the real action and sports legend that began in our favorite decade came with mastermind head coach Bill Walsh.
One of Walsh’s great strengths as a head coach was that he sure could pick ‘em. Today, we know how important the perfect roster is, especially fans who are glued to all the latest NFL news and stats; but back then, there wasn’t such an emphasis on this side of the game of football. In Walsh’s first draft, he had one particular player in mind that was somewhat overlooked by almost everyone else in the football community...quarterback Joe Montana. In the late ‘70s, Montana had impressed in college football, but his arm strength and inconsistent play worked against his prospects at pro level. Walsh, however, had vision and could see beyond these concerns. Of course, he was proved absolutely right, and “The Comeback Kid” went on to be an NFL Hall of Famer and proved to be a very wise investment.
Super Bowl Success
Their first victory came at Super Bowl XVI. Many of you may recall the day – January 24, 1982 at the Pontiac Silverdome when the first Super Bowl was held at cold-weather city. Facing the Cincinnati Bengals, the 49ers took the win with a final score of 26-21. Joe Montana, Walsh’s draft pick, was named Super Bowl MVP.
In 1985, the 49ers took the trophy again in Super Bowl XX at Stanford Stadium. The NFL's two top quarterbacks battled it out valiantly, Montana against the Miami Dolphins Dan Marino, with the final score of 38-16 to the 49ers.
Just a few years later, another victory came in Super Bowl XXIII in 1989 held in Miami. The game had one of the most dramatic finishes of NFL history. Down to the Cincinnati Bengals, the 49ers kept on fighting to the bitter end. They proved the importance of the psychological side of sports and having a persistent mindset, believing in themselves and ultimately stealing the lead at the last minute. Once again, Joe Montana proved the wisdom of head coach Bill Walsh’s vision all those years earlier by making a touchdown pass to wide receiver John Taylor in the last 34 seconds of the game and beating the Bengals by a score of 20-16.
As the decade was drawing to a close there was still time for one last victory. Going into the 1989 season, the 49ers were without their tried-and-tested head coach Bill Walsh and instead, in the hands of rookie head coach George Seifert. Any fears, however, were soon put to rest as the 49ers became the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls with different head coaches. Not only that but they did so in style, demolishing the Denver Broncos at the Louisiana Superdome by a margin of 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. It would be the most lopsided game in Super Bowl History and good old Joe Montana brought home the MVP trophy once again.
With the ‘80s behind them, the winning streak still wasn’t over and in 1994, the 49ers became the first team to win five Super Bowl championships. With the San Diego Chargers as their opponents, the two sides clashed in Miami with 49ers QB Steve Young stepping out of Joe Montana’s shadow and helping to secure the 49-26 win.